After 12 years, Stephen Ryan has stepped down as the NSW Aboriginal Land councillor for the central region.
The central region covers from Mudgee to Nyngan. As a councillor Mr Ryan was an advocate for concerns affecting the Aboriginal community.
Mr Ryan became a councillor in 2007, but his history with the NSWALC goes back a lot further.
In 1983, Mr Ryan and Chris Kirkbright worked together to establish 104 Aboriginal Land Councils and eight Regional Aboriginal Land Councils.
"Ten people in a community had to sign a request to have a land council set up. Chris or I would visit with detailed maps of NSW and the community would decide where they wanted their boundaries to be. Most agreed that their boundaries would go halfway to the next community," he said.
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In the first few months the majority of work was done out of their cars.
"I had my map and Chris had his, and we took them to the Central Mapping Authority in Bathurst and told them to mark the agreed boundaries using whatever natural makers they could, such as creeks, rivers, gullies and the like," Mr Ryan said.
"We left spaces for later starters like Wellington and West Wylong because we knew they would want to be part of this powerful legislation."
Land rights have been an important issue for Mr Ryan, a Thubbagah Wiradjuri man who grew up in Wellington. He frequently marched for land rights and was one of the people who kept vigil outside Parliament House in May 1983 when the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed.
Mr Ryan was the founding member of the Dubbo Local Aboriginal Land Council. He was also an inaugural board member of the Aboriginal Legal Service and the chair of the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations.
Now, he says the biggest job for the council is reuniting the network.
"There was a lot of anger and distrust in the network as NSWALC came out of administration, and we worked hard to regain the respect of not only our Local Aboriginal Land Councils, but government," he said.
"We consulted communities and gradually broke through the grievances to help LALCs work with us to comply with the act."
Mr Ryan will be replaced by Grace Toomey.
"Representing the Central Region as a NSWALC councillor has been a privilege. I've enjoyed my time and look forward to the next council continuing to progress the land rights network and all the communities' prosperity," Mr Ryan said.
"And for our youth, my message is to learn all you can about land rights so you and your children can receive the benefits it can provide."